Inspector Badaboo growled. The spirit seated on the bench plopped in the air slightly, like a little splash of water when a fish jumps out and back in. It was one of the new dead, still unused to Feardom. Dabs, (he hated the name but knew his deputies call him that behind his back), knew that on this planet, the living expected only monsters to growl while unsubstantials like him weren’t associated with any sound. He was a kind soul so he shut up immediately.
Spirit 2X04 had arrived at an unfortunate hour – right in the middle of the rush hour night. He’d materialized right into the peaktime traffic of ghouls making their way to under children’s beds and set off an entire street of dogs baying when he shrieked. That damn Netherworld pass was jammed again and the poor souls ghosting them would have to stay back early to clean up the mess.
Badaboo drifted up and waved to 2X04. He’d recognize only living human gestures at this point of time and Dabs had had to deal with enough of disoriented new-dead to learn a bit of the local lingo. He was gesturing for him to come along. There were his usual rounds so he decided to drop the kid at the Netherworld pass, instead of letting him make a nuisance of himself to the Feardom watch staff.
Ideally the orientation officers would take charge the minute new-dead crossed over and assign them to the appropriate journeys. This one may not even be slated for Feardom but had materialized through the cracks. Badaboo knew he wouldn’t be rerouted, not immediately. There was no room for one more bureaucratic nightmare. There were too many of them on this planet already and they were notoriously territorial.
They drifted along and Badaboo began his usual tour-operater speech that he gave to the new-dead that seemed to fall into his lap every couple of months or so.
“That’s the Factory.”
he said, gesturing to his right. Badaboo could see the kid’s thoughts running in the direction of tall buildings spewing black smoke.
“No, not that kind of Factory. Well, the same kind. It’s the only Factory in Feardom. They make raw fear.”
Badaboo thanked Ixtra spirit that new dead didn’t have working bladders or 2X04 would have voided his. Embarassment would dilute fear and hence his fear-creating potential. If the kid was to fit into Feardom, he’d have to learn to curb those.
“Yes. Mostly they use it to make Fog-of-fear that the government sprays on the living to keep them indoors, asleep and manageable during heavy traffic. Look, there’s a fear dispenser going by after his nightly rounds. Every street gets one whiff, some high population ones get an entire canister.”
The fear dispenser whizzed by, obviously in a hurry to finish up late. Then he abruptly darted back and sprayed a multi-coloured wisp into the air and zoomed off.
said Badaboo, a disapproving clink in his voice. And sure enough, there was a worship place on the horizon. The fear dispensing had eased up considerably around these places in the past century. This particular one must be a new sect and have requested a special, fresh Fear Fog every night.
“Being dead is very different from what I thought.”
“Don’t worry. Feardom is a jolly old place once you get used to it.”
“It sounds horrible. Fearsome.”
“It’s supposed to. Fear runs our economy, you know. We sleep in comfortable coffins and cupboards and bed bottoms during the day because of the bounty it brings us.”
That’s wasn’t quite true, Badaboo knew but he was the face of Feardom to these newbies after all. No point indulging their foolish notions. Feardom wasn’t a rich state but it got by fine and there were jobs to be had for the hardworking ghoul, for the spirited spirit and even for the occasional unsubstantial like him, struck with wanderlust.
They passed the graveyard and unsurprisingly 2X04 slowed down to watch. The new-dead were so fascinated with their deaths. Badaboo growled again and the spirit jumped. In a kindler tone than his growl, Badaboo explained,
“That’s just the nightly bone market. If you ever take up special spook assignments, you can come rent a couple of bones or even a whole skeleton here. Be careful with your spirit though, these hawkers are thieves.”
Badaboo pulled the kid behind a parked car and they watched. Two ghouls seemed deep in conversation and after a lot of plopping and gesturing, one handed over a bone to another.
“It’s completely clean. Maggot-certified. Look, there isn’t even a trace of blood.”
Badaboo harrumped, which to the kid would have sounded like a snort.
“Maggot-certified, my painted pineapple. That one’s been stolen from a dog’s dinner and stuck into the ground.”
The buying ghoul didn’t seem to know or care though and it departed with the bone.
They turned and rose into the air when the kid nearly flew right through something.
Badaboo exclaimed, spotting his old friend.
“Dabs, thank grishooms it’s you!”
“What’s up, Koriko? You here to bust that fake bone hawker?”
Koriko frowned across its round yellow face and looked towards the kid.
“No, not tonight. Listen, I’ll take over from here. I need to take this one back.”
“Why, what’s he done? He’s barely been dead 3 hours now.”
“Three hours?!! Oh my dear dashing demons! Dabs, my dear Badaboo, he’s not new-dead. He’s near-death.”
Badaboo understood Koriko’s unease. The near-death experiences were expensive mistakes that had to be covered up with elaborate stories, not to mention the gargantuan paperwork. The kid had seen too much. What would they do with him now? They couldn’t send him back without a very expensive memory-wipe. And that might erase his brain and keep him in vegetable state for years. It would be a bureaucratic nightmare of monstrous proportions.
He looked at Koriko’s worried face and the kid’s bewildered one. Grunting to himself, he turned.
“Relax, Koriko. He ran right into a Fog of Fear trail. He’s been neutralized already. Just take him back and tell them he’s only been around a couple of minutes. That’s as much as he’ll remember anyway.”
Koriko nodded and his face relaxed into its usual jovial grimace. Taking the near-dead spirit by its hind wisp, he glided away. Badaboo growled at how easy it was. Fear arose from the unknown, after all. Why not use it occasionally to make life in Feardom a little easier?